From the very beginning, as the nation was put into lockdown and the inevitable panic-buying began to wipe out even the largest supermarket’s supplies, independent cafes, delis, greengrocers, bakers and more, all began to step-up to the plate and play a crucial role in keeping Britain fed and watered. With those sheltering facing the difficulties of extensive supermarket delivery delays, many of our community’s most vulnerable relied on independent businesses to get the most basic supplies. It goes without saying that the workforces behind these independent businesses are some of the many overlooked heroes that have emerged from the pandemic, who’s perseverance and ingenuity helped not only to feed our communities, but also keep our communities connected.

One of the many independents which proved to be a lifeline for some of the community’s most vulnerable was Fodder & Forage; a newcomer to the independent scene of York, Fodder & Forage began life in North York in January as a greengrocers and florist. Luckily, weekly deliveries of veg boxes had been something that Fodder & Forage began trailing within the first few months of opening the shop, however in the weeks prior to the Government declaring lockdown, Fodder & Forage received a significant rise in orders.

Rosie, the owner of Fodder & Forage said: “It really did just take off overnight when the supermarket delivery slots became so few and far between, we must have had nearly one hundred orders put through on the website just in that one night.

“It was understandable, as I’m in a community where there are a lot of elderly and vulnerable people who were going straight into self-isolation, so it just meant we had to rearrange the way we work. We’ve adapted so much over the past few months in terms of the stock we offer, so as we can provide things like eggs, flour and sugar instead of solely fruit and veg.

“The feedback we’ve had from customers has been really great, people really seem to be enjoying the selection of produce we now deliver. As a newer shop, it’s also been lovely to have customers who, without the demand from lockdown, may have never known we were here.”

Rosie and the team have now expanded their stock to include more local produce including flour from Holgate Windmill, pasta from Yorkshire Pasta Company in Malton, Coffee from Leeds, Yorkshire Wolds fresh apple juice, and many more. Now, as they begin to find their feet in re-opening the shop, Rosie says she hopes to carry on with deliveries; she said: “we’re just keep going to keep on doing what we’re doing.”

Love’s Greengrocers also used the method of fruit and veg delivery boxes as a way to carry on trading and help keep the community nourished. Andy and the rest of the team at the Heworth-based greengrocers had an amazing response from the delivery-service and quickly saw many of their delivery slots being filled.  The team urged customers to alert them of any community members who were house-bound due to shielding, so as they would be able to deliver supplies straight to their door with no delivery charge.

As the nation went into lockdown, Lotte the baker had just found a forever home for her bakery which was previously based in Spark. Flori Bakery, which can be found on Walmgate, soon proved to be a shining light for many in the bleak months of lockdown; the self-proclaimed ‘community bakery’ helped to keep customers stocked with delicious buns, pastries, and a whole host of other comforting treats through their delivery service and by serving out of the door.

In a post, Lotte said: “We bake through the night on Friday evening for Saturday morning pastries for our neighbourhood. We play our favourite music and laugh a lot and before we know it the sun is rising and the ovens are being loaded with your pastries. We do everything by hand in the bakery. Thank you to our bakery community for supporting local sustainability and enjoying being part of keeping a little bakery like ours alive and thank you to the volunteers who pedal as fast as they can to deliver your pastries.”

Mordon-based artisanal cheesemakers, Parlour Made, played their part in feeding communities with their delivery boxes made up of their very own handmade cheeses, with options to make it an all-out feast by adding crackers, chutneys and butter. Their boxes were made up with a variety of generous servings of their cheeses including Durham Camembert, Mordon Blue, Farmhouse White, Mordon Ruddy, and many more.

In a time when weddings and celebrations were put on hold, it was often personal delivery services which helped to keep family and friends connected. Bespoke wedding and celebration cake makers, Deborah and Tim, run Deborah Bakes together from their home kitchen in York.

The husband and wife team helped to make the community’s special occasions even sweeter with bespoke delivery boxes of beautifully decorated treats.

Deborah said: “The beginning of lockdown was an anxious time for us – the major part of our business was wedding and celebration cakes so of course cancellations came in and bookings stopped.  We decided to concentrate on the brownie side of the business and set up a delivery service.  The response was amazing. We found ourselves busy delivering treats around York and gifts for loved ones who couldn’t be together on special days.”

The pair have gone on to make delicious giant cookies with personalised messages for customer’s anniversaries, birthdays, father’s day and even as leaving presents for students to give their teachers. Deborah said: “We have had some really heart warming feedback from customers and it has been lovely to bring a bit of joy and keep people connected during these crazy times.”

After ensuring the safety of staff members and customers alike, Carol, owner of Costello’s Good Food Shop on Bishy Road worked morning ’til night planning and devising a system to help get the good food of Costello’s to the good people of York. On her own, Carol took telephone orders for collection from the shop, and although often limited on stock, Carol was determined to keep the customers satisfied.
She said: “in the beginning, it was difficult to tell people that we didn’t have the particular things they were after, but fast-forward six weeks in and people were just grateful for anything that we were able to get from our suppliers.”

“One of the things that has kept me going throughout it all has been the sheer support and gratitude of the customers. I’ve had customers give donations to help keep the shop ticking over, I’ve had customers bring me flowers, and I’ve even had one customer call to make an order almost every single day. It’s that that has fuelled me through it, because it has been really difficult both physically and mentally but those small gestures have been incredibly heartwarming.”

More planning has put Costello’s Good Food Shop in good stead for re-opening, with a safety screen around the counter customers are now welcomed to browse the delicious fresh foods on offer in the shop.